From Mom’s Nose Pin to Brother’s Gym: How at the age of 9 I realised that gender is fluid, Aishwarya

“Rahul, Raj, Govindda, Ajay…..” the audience blabbers as they were asked to guess the host of OBR (One Billion Rising is a global movement, founded by Eve Ensler, to end rape and sexual violence against women (onebillionrising.org)

“It is Aishwarya”, says the host finally.

“My name is Aishwarya and I was born a girl.”

I am a 17 year old student and at the age of 9 started applying the concept of gender fluidity. It started when my mom and dad separated, and my dad was fed up of tying up my waist long hair, hence, got it cut short. I was told by many that it suited me, and that I was looking cute. That was the reason I didn’t return to my long hair, but this of course is not the reason that I am identified as a boy. I have an elder brother and sister and since childhood my brother was allowed to go out, be it day or night, was allowed to hangout with his friends, and take all serious decisions and responsibilities of the house, this used to confuse and annoy me because I too was a human and I used to wonder why was I treated unequally. That time I didn’t know anything about gender equality, or that women were equal before law, I became sensitised only after 6 years when I joined NINEISMINE (http://www.nineismine.in)at the age of 14.

Although I was being treated equal as my brother, by her father, I was sent for grocery shopping or any other important work in the absence of my brother; I was given a phone before my elder sister. Although it made me happy but it also made me realise the level of discrimination in our Indian families and I started fighting for my sister’s rights with my father, and now all the three children of my family are treated equally.

When I got opportunity to speak in public, I spoke on gender equality, and everybody used to think that I am a boy because of my attire, my voice and my built which I had due to the gym, and once I tell them my name the hall used to echo with applause.

Now, everyone refers to me as beta(son), bhai(brother) and my sister looks up to me, as the so called protector, rather than my brother. I know this concept of protector too needs to be eliminated and that’s my vision: I want to become a professional dancer, and by being be the real me on private and public platforms, I know I am fighting gender stereotypes and inequality.

Now that I recall the times I used to apply my mother’s lipstick I laugh, and continue doing my dumbbells. There are lot of people who come to me and say that they want to be just like me and have the same courage. You know what? I am going to fight for all of these people.

My family, friends, neighbours, teachers all have accepted me like I am, and why shouldn’t they?
I am just another human.

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